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Toyota Executive Urged Company to "Come Clean" Before Recalls

Posted: Apr 08, 2010 10:46 a.m.

This won’t help Toyota defend itself from allegations of a cover-up.

USA Today reports, “Five days before Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles for sticky gas pedals, a U.S. executive wrote in an internal e-mail: ‘We need to come clean. We are not protecting our customers by keeping this quiet. The time to hide on this one is over.’”

The Wall Street Journal adds, “In the Jan. 16 email, Irv Miller, who then was Toyota's group vice president for environmental and public affairs, told another executive, Katsuhiko Koganei: 'I hate to break this to you but WE HAVE A tendency for MECHANICAL failure in accelerator pedals of a certain manufacturer on certain models.'"  Miller has since retired.

The email was obtained by the Detroit Free Press, which did not explain how it came into possession of the document.  The Free Press notes, “The disclosure adds to evidence that Toyota downplayed or withheld for years information about vehicle defects from NHTSA and American consumers, decisions that could haunt the automaker as it fights thousands of lawsuits over sudden acceleration.”

“In a statement,” the Free Press adds, “Toyota declined to comment directly on Miller's email,” saying instead, "We have publicly acknowledged on several occasions that the company did a poor job of communicating during the period preceding our recent recalls.”

Reuters reports, “The U.S. Department of Transportation [has] proposed” a fine of $16.4 million, “against Toyota -- the largest allowed by law -- and said that the automaker had knowingly delayed the recall for defective accelerator pedals.”  The company has two weeks to decide whether to pay the fine or appeal it – with some legal experts warning that agreeing to the fine could be construed as an admission of guilt, making those lawsuits much more difficult for the company to win.

Check out the latest Toyota recall news and information, including how the company's recent troubles affect our rankings. If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals.